Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the Day: “England won a World Cup with a goal that never crossed the line. It was plain to everyone who saw it that it never went in, so I don’t think it’s fair that everyone should judge me when stuff like that went on.” – Diego Maradona.

Runner-up: “It [the diet at Old Trafford] was outrageous. Everyone ate whatever they wanted to eat and when you think about the typical English diet, you can imagine what I am talking about. Every fifteen days they would put us on what we dubbed the ‘spare-tyre machine’ to measure our body fat. You would be amazed at how many top players practically broke the machine because their diet was based on beer and burgers. I arrived not being able to speak English and I got lost a little bit in the team-talks. The gaffer, as Ferguson is known in Manchester, spoke a very Scottish kind of English that might as well have been Chinese as far as I was concerned. But I wasn’t the worst – there are players in the current squad who still don’t understand him.”- Gerard Pique.

Today’s overview: With squad members dropping like flies, England’s friendly with Germany tonight is quickly turning into the friendliest friendly of all-time.

But perhaps the story of the day is delivered by the Daily Express, Matthew Dunn claiming “over 300,000 fewer people are set to watch Premier League football this season as the credit crunch begins to take its toll even on the richest league in the world… If that trend continues, it will be the second-biggest drop in crowd figures in more than 20 years.”

The latest withdrawal is Theo Walcott, with Dominic Fifield reporting that “the Arsenal winger dislocated his right shoulder in training last night. The youngster will play no part against Germany tonight and, if the injury requires surgery, will face up to 10 weeks out of the game.” Matt Hughes puts words into Arsene Wenger’s mouth, writing “the overriding emotion at Arsenal is likely to be anger… the manager will be furious that he has lost one of his most important attacking players, especially in such circumstances.”

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Kevin Garside sarcastically points out that “at least the random injury rule in international week has spared [Capello] and us the monotony of the Lampard-Gerrard debate.” Kevin McCarra observes how Fabio “Capello went to some lengths in his effort to reject the notion that this match is a run-out for the also-rans.” Dominic Fifield attempts to focus minds on the issues which can be discovered from this match, including “Can Ashley Young prove an international class left winger?” and “What are his options at right-back?”

However ruining the optimistic mood is Steven Howard, who argues that no matter the result tonight “as for the Untouchables and the theory of ‘caps for the boys’, that is still the case.” A similarly negative attitude is offered by the Mirror’s Dan Silver, blubbering “if England’s top players can’t be bothered to get out of bed for this game, then why should fans be expected to get excited about it either?”

Other articles on England include Tony Cascarino’s appraisal of how Capello will have observed the youngsters in the squad, “[running] the rule over them 24 hours a day. He has been spying on them, seeing how they behave, seeing how they train, seeing how they react to being surrounded by some of the best players in the world.” On forcing Gerrard to have a medical, James Lawton salutes Don Fabio’s ability to have drawn “a line against what in the past has been a shameless contempt for the cause of England.” And Jeremy Wilson lists five things the Premier League can learn from the Bundesliga, including “Pricing Under-16s can also buy tickets for as little as €5 (£4). Adult season tickets start at €120 (£95), while the cost of a programme for Saturday’s match against Bayern Munich was €1(0.80p).”

Moving onto the proposals being mooted by UEFA surrounding new restrictions on transfers and limits on budgets and payroll, Martin Samuel lays out his warning for the FA. “That the FA is run by Lord PleasedMan, a Platini lickspittle who has not missed an opportunity to knock the domestic game of late in the vain hope that it wins England the right to stage the 2018 World Cup, does not help. Ministers beware, though. If English football is sold down the river on the off chance of securing a month-long festival a decade from now, those responsible will never be forgiven.”

Turning to the Premier League, and David Conn opens the annals of history to detail the rise of Hull City, “a debt-free Premier League club with a paid-for stadium.” And a day after news linked Alan Shearer to become the Newcastle boss, Rob Stewart writes that Shearer will not join the Toon so long as Dennis Wise remains at the club.

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